Brace Yourselves..

I’m writing this in the middle of the ocean…on a cruise ship. On our honeymoon. I haven’t written since Christmas. To say I’ve been busy is an understatement. From a new job to a wedding, my mind has been preoccupied. I’ll write more on that later..

But today, the waves are crashing. The wind is blowing. Our breakfast dishes are swaying and vibrating from the windy conditions outside. This is the rockiest the boat has been all week. I’m hearing it’s because we are moving from 80 degree weather to, from what I hear, the 30s.

Two fronts colliding in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last weekend, we had a 70 degree outdoor wedding. In February! Completely unexpected. And today, one week later, I hear it’s COLD, as we expected it to be on the big day. We live in Texas, so you really never know what to expect weather wise. We laugh about it because it’s so true…

As the ship rocks back and forth on our last day, I can’t help but think about transition. We are heading back to our new lives as husband and wife, parents to four children rather than two each. Huge transition! The Lord says “Expect the wind, expect the rocky times, expect the unknown, but I am with you. As I always have been.”

Just like moving between warm and cold fronts, with all change, comes movement, uneasiness, new challenges, and at times, fear. This boat is rocking, but I fully expect it to get me where He knows I need to be.

The captain of this cruise ship could see the rocky conditions coming and turn around for fear of sick or scared passengers or continue full steam ahead. We all have that choice.

We have to be willing to sustain the wind in order to keep moving forward…Home is the goal for the captain and all of us aboard.

The devil can throw all kinds of wind and debris at us, and He has. But, the Holy Spirit is also referenced to us Wind in the Bible. So, when the waves are crashing and we are grabbing at hand rails to keep our balance, we need to trust that the Lord is stronger still. One breath of God brings life.

We want to share the love of Jesus and wherever we can be used for Him most, we ask Him to take us. Amidst the storms only He can calm, we will endure and trust Him.

Whatever brings You glory, Lord! We will rock with and for You…You alone are our steady.

He is BIGGER…

Jesus is bigger. He’s bigger than the church pew you just sat in. He’s bigger than the separation with our kids. He’s bigger than the guilt we carry.

He’s bigger than your divorce. He’s bigger than the sermon you just listened to. He’s bigger than the quote you just shared. He’s bigger than the diagnosis you just received. He’s bigger than differences in theology. He’s bigger than the school you attend. He’s bigger than our mistakes.

He’s bigger than the foods we eat. He’s bigger than the feelings we have. He’s bigger than the words that we write or say. He’s bigger than our intentions. He’s bigger than our fears. He’s bigger than the devil.

Claiming the Name of Jesus is the biggest thing we can do and best choice we can make. When we are overcome with joy, in the depths of despair, when sadness washes over us, when misunderstandings run rampant. Claim His Name.

If there’s TWO things I pray my girls see and remember in me, it’s the grace and love of Jesus. What more can I give?

More of You, Jesus. Less of me.

For YOU know better than I….

 

When Following Him Looks Different…

Over the years, I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories of people who were shunned for their marriage issues, the smell of smoke, food choices, Sabbath activities, church attire, accidents, and cover-ups never to return again. From a church, a Bible study, a family get together, a school. Feeling unloved, judged, unacceptable, rejected….the polar opposite of how Jesus would have treated them.

Here are a few questions that come to mind…How do you love your neighbor? What about the one who believes differently than you? Do you believe Jesus died for them? Do you believe your rules will save you? Do you believe Jesus wants you both? Do you think your actions or lack thereof will save you? Are you leaning into Jesus and His love for others?

In our church, when we hear the word “obedience” we (I) tend to immediately think of the Sabbath. Like anyone who is not honoring the seventh day Sabbath is being disobedient to God. What if they find Jesus elsewhere? What about judging that person? Isn’t that disobedient? What if God is calling you to forgive and you just refuse? What if you covet someone’s marriage or singleness? Or He’s calling you to love your enemies and you just can’t go there…Isn’t that disobedient? We ALL fall short (Romans 3:23), and there’s no shortage of ways to do it.

Just like we may judge someone by the color of their skin, clothes, neighborhood, food choices, jewelry, or even hairstyle, we judge by the church they attend. I met the love of Jesus outside of my home church and have returned to share what I learned from those who do not go there. Praise His name, since I’ve returned, I’ve found more and more people hungry for this love.

We all need more Jesus.

I love the Sabbath, I came back for it. But, do we worship the Sabbath or do we worship Him? As humans, we tend to worship creations over the Creator. We want something tangible to hang on to. Like our children, marriages, friends, careers, accomplishments, even doctrine. Anything to feel like we’ve got what we need. I have been guilty of this for sure. What we need most is Jesus. The rest are gifts given BY Him to raise, enjoy, love, and study, but not to exalt higher than their Creator.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath day was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath day. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” Mark 2:27-28 (NIRV)

I feel like if He was sitting in my living room, He would say “following Me doesn’t mean doing things the way they’ve always been done, just because”. There are so many Adventists who worship the day that sets us apart over the One who died to do so. I think this hurts His heart. I can also hear Him saying, “I don’t want you worshipping the day I made any more than the animals I made. Worship the One who made them.” When Jesus comes first, how we treat and love others (all others) is evident. I mean, how would Jesus treat that particular person?

Would you flat refuse to set foot in church on a Sunday to worship our God in heaven with others? If so, what does that mean? Who are YOU worshipping? Do you think Jesus would be more likely to flip tables over in a church of people worshipping on the “wrong day” or people worshipping the day over Him? He knows our hearts and why we do what we do. Think about how public worship is an honor and a privilege that many in this world aren’t allowed to do on ANY day…

On my death bed, as much as I hope my girls are ingrained with a reverence and knowledge of the Sabbath, my ultimate goal is that they find and cling to Jesus for themselves. No matter how, why, or where they find Him, my deepest desire is that they do. God works in mysterious ways. His thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is bigger.

May they sense the joy, freedom, and strength in Christ over the shame, fear, and insecurity of ANY religion that lacks unconditional love. Because, God IS love. In the last days, God will call His people out. Leave conviction to the One they have a relationship with. If that relationship is solid, they will hear His voice.

John 10:27-30 says  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.The Father and I are one.”

I claim this! I pray personal relationship into my girls’ lives, that is my deepest desire, because when that’s in place, they WILL hear His voice and no one can snatch them from His hand. No one. Nothing.

Search my heart, Lord. Correct me where I’m wrong and may my heart be and stay ever closer to You.

 

When All Else Fails….

When the phone call is not returned. When you’ve reached out multiple times. When your plans fail. Whatever it may be. When you’ve done all that you can do…

We blame ourselves, take criticism to heart, seek to please the unappeasable, wear ourselves thin, burn candles at all ends, over plan, over apologize, overwhelm, and over think. We fear rejection and seek comfort. We wonder why we’re left out and then isolate because of it. We filter our words for fear of abandonment. We worry about the future and squirm over the past.

Can we seek God’s love in the midst? Can we share openly when each one of these come to knock on the door of our hearts and ask Him to answer it? Can we ask Him to usher it out when, even thought we hate to, we swing the door wide open. In our humanness and struggles is where we discover and swim in God’s grace the best.

Maybe it’s not a habit that holds you captive, but a deep sadness. A relentless fear. An insatiable need for control or perfection. An insecurity from childhood. A difficult parent or the loss of a child. A regret. Maybe it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’re scared you may do. Let God in and share. Let THIS be the gateway for relationship. Let THIS be where your intimacy grows with your personal Savior. Let THIS hard painful thorn usher in the beauty of Jesus. Not my Jesus, but yours.

And each time it rears its ugly head, claim His precious Name. He died for this. He died for you. And He died to bring you an eternity of peace from it soon and very soon. Let THIS keep you homesick for heaven. Let THIS be used to the glory of God in your life. Let THIS be what brings you closer than you’ve ever been to the One who made you, claims you, and redeemed you.

If THIS is what brings you to your knees (emotionally, physically, mentally), let it be in front of the cross. Because THIS is why He did what He did…for you.

Because when all else fails…Love never will. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

This Is Me

“The Greatest Showman” is the talk of the box office right now. After watching an outtake that brought tears to my eyes over and over again, I bought 7 tickets. I was going to support these actors. No matter what I thought of the film, the “This is Me” singer was worth my money. Her emotion still sends tingles down my arms and tears to my face.

You can tell she’s been put down. You can tell she’s believed it. You can tell she’s at the point in her life where she only wants real. You can tell she’s learning to love herself exactly as she is and only desires those who do too in her life. You can tell she’s scared to death, but willing to not only stand up for herself, but others too. You can tell she’s finally willing to be walked away from or do the walking. She will no longer cling, hide, or strive to please, she will embrace who she is and who she was made to be. You can tell she owns her weaknesses and imperfections, but won’t let them keep her from singing. Not anymore.

I can relate. That’s where the tears come from, I guess. Maybe you can too. Maybe you’ve been put down and believed it. Maybe you’ve been afraid to speak your mind or your story for fear of false accusations or rolling eyes. Maybe you’ve been told something is all your fault. Something you’d never pick in a million years.

In the movie, she plays the bearded lady. She was hidden from society and called a freak her whole life, even by her family. But, she sings like an angel. They would let her voice be heard, but never her face. It took one man to call her out and celebrate her differences for her to feel valuable. Praise God for the people in your life that do this, and know that even when they feel hard to come by, your Creator celebrates you. You are who you are for a reason. Your trials, conditions, story can be used for His glory. And, He died for you.

We all have a story. Maybe you’ve been harassed, abused, neglected, accused, lied to, lied about, dragged through the mud, laughed at….Jesus, the Son of God, was spit on. For us. He was beaten, accused, and killed a tortuous death…for you.

When the ultimate accuser and liar (Satan) comes to ridicule you for who you are, what you’ve done, what is happening right now. Kneel down and then stand up. Because we can come boldly to the throne of grace and mercy when we need it MOST. And, He is victorious. God already did what He had to do to save us. To claim us. To keep us.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

I claim this scripture. You can too. God looks at each of us in awe, wonder, amazement and love. He made you, not because He had to, but because He wanted to. Lean into that and when you are hurting, get real and honest with Him. Like the day you were born. Can we come to Him with no makeup on our face and no makeup on our situations and say “this is me”. Can we open up to Him and others and say this is where I messed up and “this is me”. Can we ask forgiveness, make amends, change, admit wrong, lay it down and say “this is me”. He loves us as we are, but never leaves us that way. He comes in, reminds us who we are to Him, and loves us so much that our hearts desire to reflect Him. We will WANT to be closest to the One who knows us best and still loves us most.

When you call out to Him “This is Me”. His answer is always “And I love you”.

My Love Story….

My love story will be different…It won’t be a “married to my high school sweetheart” story. It won’t be a “rocky marriage and reconciliation” story. It won’t be a “happily ever after right after divorce” story. No, my love story will be different.

My love story will be learning about how much God loves me, even in the midst of painful losses and rejections. My love story will be learning to love myself in the midst of them to0. Learning to love myself even when made to feel unlovable. Learning to love myself after being torn down to a nub by men in my life. Learning that not all men and women are the same….

Right after my divorce, I fell hard for a guy. He gave me more attention that I’d ever received from my ex-husband. We dated over a year, but he refused to commit. So, heartbroken again, I knew I had to stop the rollercoaster of not knowing what he wanted from me. Cue the next few guys who wanted to marry me after our first date. And some even before. What was going on?!?

One on parole and two more with mental issues…The fear of God set in.

What was a single mom with two daughters to do?  Just stop? Or keep trying, trusting God. I chose the latter……My love story will be different.

The only way I could trust God with my romantic life after these stories was IF I loved Him enough and trusted His love for me. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve cried out, thinking it won’t happen for me. It just can’t after these stories…

The fear would be too great or the rug would be yanked out from under me, again.

I’ve split over spiritual beliefs. I’ve dated guys recommended by friends. What was going on?!? None of it was easy…

My love story will be different….God will be my first love.

My love story will be an open book of the love WE share. I will run to Him when I hurt. I will lean on Him when I’m scared. I will share who He is to me. I will trust Him with my life. And, if it turns out that He just wants me all to Himself, my love story will be complete.

I will live to please and honor Him all the days of my life. The One who knows me best (every fear, every story, every option) and loves me most..

This is my story and He is my song.

 

Diagnosis: Panic

panic

The phone rings. The phone doesn’t ring. The news is not what you expect. The news is what you do expect. Our hearts race, mouths go dry, every heart beat is amplified in our ears. Fear. Fight or flight. Sheer panic sets in. This is an all too frequent condition that I deal with. Panic. Even seeing the word provokes what it means to me.

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Can I tattoo this on my forehead? Who’s with me? So, when I feel attacked or misunderstood, don’t panic. When my manager wants to “talk”, don’t panic. When the doctor arrives who seems hell-bent on criticizing me, don’t panic. When my plans fall through. When I can’t be two places at once. When I don’t get the reaction I want or expect. When it takes me two hours to get to work because of traffic, don’t panic. When these things happen, my first instincts and emotions go haywire. I want to yell and scream…”It’s NOT RIGHT!!” But, that won’t change any of it whatsoever. What will? Who can?

Although, my heart may pound and my mouth feel parched, my knees will hit the ground. My heart will cry out for relief. For guidance and the self control necessary to prevent the tidal wave of emotions crashing all around me from taking me down along with the ones I love. And, I will let the tears fall when they come. Tears are safe. Tears are cleansing. Tears are proof that we are alive. Because, life is hard and seems extremely unfair sometimes. Only with God’s perspective can we trust that the hard stuff is not because of His lack of love, but rather to draw us closer to Him. The closer the better.

We can’t make people do things. We can’t make people not do things. We can’t make someone understand. We can’t change people’s minds. We can’t make someone care if they don’t. We can only pray and ask for the help that He promises.

I still struggle with anxiety and panic, but I know the best prescription for this diagnosis is written in Isaiah 41:10. So, today I will take my medicine. My Ultimate chill pill. And, another one tomorrow….My guess is I need it every day.

Giving In Is Not Giving Up

acceptance

There’s a big difference between giving in and giving up. Giving in is about accepting reality. Giving up is throwing in the towel on reality. When reality is too much to bare, we tend to switch over to denial or fight modes. We look for anything that helps us deny what we don’t want to face. Anything from regrets to betrayal to rejection. All extremely painful.

Giving in is accepting a relationship for what it is and what it is not. Giving up would be blaming, shaming, and criticizing the other party without owning our part in the dissolution. Giving up is also assuming we must be unlovable because it didn’t work out or that it was all our fault.

Giving in is accepting a diagnosis, whether God physically heals or not. His will be done. Yes, He has the power to physically heal, but the “healing of acceptance” is just as potent to the patient and those looking on. Giving up is blaming, shaming, and criticizing God for an outcome that hurts His heart even more than our own.

Giving in is accepting our strengths and weaknesses as a child of God. Leaning into our strengths and gifts with humility and honor while asking and receiving His sufficient grace for our weaknesses. Giving up is bragging and flaunting what we have and can do while “hiding” our weaknesses from others and God.

Giving in is watching the news today and focusing on the fact that there are still good people in this world and an All Mighty God who sees every single injustice. Giving in is leaving retribution in His capable hands, and praying for all including our enemies. Giving up is cowering in fear at the rampant evil invading our world just like the Bible has already clearly told us it will.

Giving in is having our eyes wide open to what was and what is. And, accepting that. Giving up is closing our eyes tight to what we don’t want to know, see, or feel.

I’ve done both. I’ve given in and I’ve given up in different situations and circumstances in my life, but I want to do better. I want to give in and accept what is without ever forgetting God’s love for me. I want to give in to what God has for me today and cherish it without ever forgetting that He’s actively aware of my concerns. I want to give in to His Spirit’s movements within me and step outside my comfort zone without ever forgetting the price He paid for me and how special I must be to Him because of it.

What is on your plate today? Who is in front of you right now? What is the very next step? Just do that….in reality with prayer.

The “healing of acceptance” is a beautiful thing.

  • Accepting the past for what it was
  • Learning from it
  • Moving forward from it
  • Forgiving yourself and others
  • Taking courageous leaps of faith
  • Trying rather than retreating
  • Running your own race
  • Hurdling obstacles
  • Helping others along the way
  • Growing aware of the enemy’s schemes

There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. Matthew 6:26 (MSG)

I started writing this entry close to a year ago and didn’t have the words to finish it. I knew I was struggling with giving in vrs. giving up and wanted clarity on the two. Letting go vrs. holding on. I write when concepts become clear in my mind and I’m so thankful these words flowed out today. For myself and for others, I hope it helps you like it does me. Now, I have a personal reference to look back on when I question myself and the decisions that we all deal with on the daily.

Giving in is not giving up. Giving in is accepting what is and what is not. Faith is being open to what’s to come. And, hope is looking forward to it!

There is a specific pace and a very special grace for your personal journey. Cherish this. You are loved……no matter what.

 

Paper Bag Moments

roller coaster

Have you ever had a moment that blows you away? Not in a negative way, but in a positive way? The kind of moment that you dreamed of, but didn’t know would ever come true? The kind of moment that left your mouth wide open and a personal dream realized? I call them my “paper bag moments”. The moments when God shows up and shows off.  The moments that take your breath away. The moments when you just KNOW that He is looking and smiling down on you. The moments when all you can think is “Oh, how He loves us….me!”

The assurance of God’s presence in our lives should blow us away daily. When He acts out on our behalf in our personal dilemmas, issues, concerns, and fears, it blows us away personally. He wants to blow us away. He wants us to KNOW that He cares for our personal struggles and is fighting for us. He wants us to KNOW that He is very much present in our daily lives. He wants us to KNOW He is still very much a miracle worker. He wants us to KNOW that in those moments when the pain feels like more than we can bear, He is not only with us, but He feels it too. He want us to KNOW that He is a loving Father. Even in His discipline, He wants us to KNOW that He is showing love. He is drawing us to Him, not pushing us away.

I have had many “paper bag moments” recently. Moments associated with love, family, and ministry and they seem to keep coming. Moments when I feel like I really could use a paper bag to breathe into. I cherish these moments now. God says, just breathe, because I’m about to BLOW you away. Oh, how He loves us!

Life’s journey is like a rollercoaster. It goes up, down, and sideways. After a long downward plunge, the ups can make our stomachs leap into our throats. The excitement can feel scary because it’s so unexpected. I am reminded of how many times God says “Do not fear” in the Bible. When the ups come, throw your hands up and Praise His name! Just like when the downs come, the best thing for us to do is hit our knees and cry out. But, either way, don’t forget to breathe! He is WITH us in the good times and in the bad.

Here’s to more “paper bag moments” in all our lives. To God be the Glory of our story!

Speak!

speak

Who made you feel like your voice doesn’t matter? Like it doesn’t count?

God used Moses who stuttered and was afraid to speak. He tried to get out of it. He even asked God to send someone else. He was afraid and felt incompetent, yet God promised His help.

Moses spoke to the Lord. He said, “Lord, I’ve never been a good speaker. And I haven’t gotten any better since you spoke to me. I don’t speak very well at all.” The Lord said to him, “Who makes human beings able to talk? Who makes them unable to hear or speak? Who makes them able to see? Who makes them blind? It is I, the LordNow go. I will help you speak. I will teach you what to say.”  Exodus 4:10-11 (NIRV)

In spite of Moses’s insecurities, God used him to DELIVER His people from the Egyptians. Moses spoke. His words delivered…what a testimony to tell.

Fear paralyzes my vocal chords. Can you relate? It’s like I can almost feel the enemy strangle me when the truth of how I’m feeling wants to come out. Be free and know that choosing not to speak your truth doesn’t necessarily protect you, it just leaves people in the dark. They don’t KNOW, if you don’t tell. We can’t hold people accountable for something they don’t know. I was SO guilty of this thinking…”Well, they should KNOW that hurts. They should KNOW what I like and don’t like. They should KNOW what I need.” Newsflash! They don’t.

Yes, they should know you deserve respect and honesty. But, they don’t know your preferences, likes, dislikes, or necessities unless you clearly communicate them. I used to think this was rude or selfish, now I see that it’s just plain common sense and necessary. Speaking your truth respectfully is quite the opposite of rudeness and actually mandatory for mutual peace and understanding.

If you struggle with this like me, remembering our value and respecting ourselves, is the best remedy I’ve found. Remember that your opinion, whether agreed with or not, is just as important as the next guy’s. Remember that God created and died for you just like He created and died for the person you are afraid to speak to. Remember that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Remember that we should be respected whether we work for you, with you, or because of you. Remember that we don’t have to befriend or trust a person to treat them respectfully. Remember that just because someone chooses not to befriend or confide in you, you are still worthy of being treated respectfully. Remember that even when you’re wrong about a situation or have been misinformed, you are still worthy of respect and understanding. We all make mistakes. Remember these….and I need to as well.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Speak your mind. Speak your truth. God gave you a heart, a mind, and a mouth to communicate with. We are always learning and hopefully growing. Don’t let your moods, thoughts, and words go haywire before laying them out before God, but once you have, don’t let fear hold you back. He gives us power and strength to speak. Your words may be His words. He may use you to correct a situation or touch a person’s heart. God used Moses and He can use you too.

Speak, dear one…..we’re listening.